Economic labs to expedite job creation

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Bereng Mpaki

THE government is next month set to conduct a dialogue with the private sector to bridge the gap of unemployment.

This was said by the Minister of Development Planning, Tlohelang Aumane in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

Mr Aumane said this would be done through a new initiative dubbed Lesotho Investment and Economic Laboratory set to start on 11 March and end on 8 April 2018.

He said over 150 prospective investors have so far confirmed interest in the initiative.

The minister said the Lesotho Investment and Economic Laboratory is a response to the high rate of unemployment on the back of the government’s failure to create 10 000 jobs annually as promised since the first National Strategic Development Plan 2012/13. The plan was to have the government creating 10 000 jobs annually up to the 2017/18 financial year.

However, this did not materialise and the plan was carried over into the second NSDP running from 2018/19 to 2022/23.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, Lesotho’s official unemployment rate was 32.8 percent in 2016, although the figure is believed to have since risen in recent years.

Mr Aumane said the 2019 Lesotho Investment and Economic Laboratory is a specialised public-private sector dialogue aimed at generate impactful, fast investment and job creation results.

Mr Aumane said the dialogue which is scheduled to commence in early March and be completed in early April 2019 will be an opportunity for private sector entities to share with government agencies the obstacles they encounter in the investment process. He said through the dialogue, both parties will be able to set up a mutually beneficial process to implement investment plans.

The minister said dialogue, will also seek to address all issues under the country’s investment climate and beyond.

“In order to realise this plan and ensure it succeeds, we decided to follow an approach of economic laboratories from Malaysia,” Mr Aumane said.

“This entails meeting with prospective investors and working out how to address any obstacles impeding them from investing.”

He said investors and government agencies will work together in the lab to remove all impediments hindering implementation of the projects that private investors would have identified, while there will also be funders for those with projects that may need funding.

Mr Aumane said at the end of the dialogue, each party is made to commit to its end of the bargain to ensure the investments succeed.

He further said at the end of the dialogue, a list of prioritised investment projects with clear monetary value and number of jobs to be created will be generated.

“This final day will be called the job summit where all the projects which will have been identified, how much funds will be needed and the number of jobs to be created will be revealed,” Mr Aumane said.

He further said a delivery unit comprising government agencies and investors tasked with coordinating and driving the implementation of prioritised projects will also be established in the Prime Minister’s office.

“The unit will play a facilitative role with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) working hand-in-hand with the private sector to address project implementation issues.

“This means that once we have reached an agreement to remove barriers to investment no one will have a chance to slack off from their responsibility,” the minister said.

Mr Aumane said the initiative will have a monitoring and evaluation system on a regular basis. He said it will also help government to determine the number of jobs it has been able to create over the next five years unlike in the past five years where there are no clear figures of jobs created.

Asked to comment on the government’s commitment to address laws that may need to be enacted or removed to support some of the investment projects, the minister said the government will ensure necessary changes on the legal framework are possible.

Asked what specific economic sectors the initiative will target, Mr Aumane said: “While the government will not dictate the investments the private sector may have an interest in, the government commits to supporting the four productive sectors of commercial agriculture, diversified manufacturing, tourism and creative industry; and technology and innovation as per the NSDP II,” Mr Aumane said.

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